Obstacle or opportunity : exploring energy education opportunities in a low-income community
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This thesis examines an effort to increase energy conservation in low-income housing communities through an educational program. The Saving Green Program offered at Foundation Communities in Austin, Texas attempts to educate residents about their energy usage and ways to reduce it. Activities include a class, an in-home energy visit, and energy feedback reports. We take several approaches in analyzing the program’s impact. First, we conduct a descriptive characterization of participants with regards to income, household makeup, and electricity usage. We then interviewed program participants in order to assess impact and participant reaction. Finally, we conduct two quantitative analyses to measure effectiveness. These include a comparison between groups of participants and non-participants, and a comparison of participants’ electricity usage after the program against their own usage before the program. Our descriptive assessment shows that most in our sample are either single seniors or households with multiple children. Their electricity usage varies however nearly half of load usually goes to cooling and their usage appears to be uncorrelated with income. Load patterns are dictated more by apartment size than anything else. Interviews show that participants readily absorbed and disseminated information regarding plug loads, but had poor understanding of the importance of cooling load. Finally, our quantitative analysis shows, in accordance with the interviews, that participants did not exhibit any systematic change in electricity consumption in summer, however there is some evidence that winter load decreased after the program.
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